Mark’s* first time in the United States was in 2014 when he received an opportunity to do a one-year transfer program. He was the first in his family and small village in Asia to attend university. Not only that, but he was the first to encounter the love of God, to attend church, and to receive a Bible. 

“I must admit that what attracted me to the church at that time was the free food, not the belief,” Mark honestly shared. “But that was a good start because I wasn’t opposed to the idea and was open-minded to learn more about Jesus.” 

So Mark gave reading the Bible and attending church a chance. He also felt welcome around his friends who followed Jesus, which was a pleasant surprise. 

Even though I wasn’t a follower of Jesus yet, I felt more peaceful every time I read the Bible,” Mark mentioned. “All the new friends I made were followers of Jesus, but none of them pressured me to believe in him. They kindly shared the joy and peace of God with me.” 

One year passed and Mark had come to the end of his transfer program. Back to Asia, he went, and it was as if God had never come into the picture. He lost his Bible on his way back home and stopped reading it altogether. His sole focus was now on graduation and applying to grad school. 

“Even though I forgot about God, he did not forget about me,” Mark said. 

Fast forward some years and Mark was ready to return to the US, this time to pursue his PhD. Through his roommate, he got connected with IFI and was invited to a Bible discussion. Memories of the past flooded him, and what once was a small flame became a wildfire. Since that night, Mark began to read the Bible daily, as well as attend weekly Bible discussions. 

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Once again, Mark felt stranded on an island, disconnected from community and God. Rather than choosing connection, he chose isolation, fixating himself on his lab work. 

“To be honest, those two years away from God were the darkest years of my life,” Mark stated. “A lot of bad things happened one after another, and I wasn’t even sure about graduating on time.” 

Mark decided to get back to what he once knew as a peace-giver– his daily Bible readings and lifting prayer requests unto God for help and guidance. Slowly, he felt less stressed and experienced that unexplainable peace he’d felt in the past. He also decided to reach back to his IFI friends and got plugged into community. He was all in. 

“This time, I didn’t deny Jesus– I accepted him,” Mark said. “It’s never too late to reconnect with God.”

At the end of 2023, Mark decided to fully embrace the blessing of his life in Christ by choosing to take the step of baptism, an affirmation of one’s new identity as a follower of Jesus. He had the honor of doing this in front of his whole church community and IFI family– a beautiful sight to see for those who had been following his journey over the years.

“When I think back, I realize God was already working in me before I knew his name,” Mark confessed. “God is always there, waiting for you. We can have confidence and trust in God because like the book of Romans says– while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

*student name and photo changed to protect privacy